America: 4--Inventing a Nation
- Publication date
- Series: America: A Personal History of the U.S (1972-3), American Colonies, United States (1783-1859), United States (1783-1859), American Colonies
- Time Life Education / Turner Learning / Time Life Video PO Box 85026 Richmond VA 23285-5026 USA (800)449-2010 (804)261-1300 http://www.timelifeedu.com
"The American Constitution, said 19th century British statesman William Gladstone, is 'the most wonderful work ever struck off at a given time by the brain and purpose of man.' At Philadelphia's Independence Hall, host Alistair Cooke recalls the writing and ratification of the document, focusing on the conflict over Federal and state powers. Two prime antogonists: Hamilton and Madison. Judicial interpretations of the Constitution key Cooke's tour of the old Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C. At Monticello (Va.) he profiles 'the missing giant of the Constitutional Convention,' Thomas Jefferson"--TV guide.
Pictures a decade during which the Constitution was drawn up./Describes the secret Independence Hall debates involving Hamilton, Mason and Madison, setting precedents for modern politics.
- The an awful lot of things in life cannot or will not become promised most million case being the perennial conflict between workers and employers in the mid one nine hundred thirty is when the American labor was a certain of its right to organize. There were literally back and which over twenty people were killed and six hundred wounded in one crucial strike twenty five thousand steel workers quit because the company ignored a new law that allowed them to join the union of their choice. Who in such an issue is to have the final say well it's a settled in the end not by the company or the union or the president all the Congress but by a body of men created in seven hundred eighty seven in Philadelphia the one absolutely new thing in government. Invented by the Founding Fathers. You see the constitution set up the president to keep an eye on the Congress and the Congress to keep an eye on the president and to keep an eye on both of them with something else a Supreme Court of judges appointed for life. Above the political battle and yet and this is vital they are able to decide the outcome of all the battles political and social of American life that and gauge the best and the worst passions of the people and this is the place where over the longest stretch of time the United States Supreme Court has set it is the watchdog of the ordinary American citizen and there's nothing like it. Now you'll suspect rightly that the court is a hobby horse of mine let me tell you why I've been a working correspondent in this country for over thirty five years and I only now realize how often I've looked down the years that some really dangerous crisis that was happening and said Thank God for the Supreme Court for these nine men who guard the rights of the ordinary citizen and the odd miss it is and can be the president or a pimp a banker or a bomb and the judge is brief and their bible is the Constitution of the United States. They've not President the Constitution they sit most days of the year and they look into the Constitution and they decide which if something that somebody and done anybody is legal whether you can for instance run and undertakers and also own stock in an insurance company you cannot all whether a stage play of naked men and women running around shouting four letter words is constitutional. Well I'm not sure but at the moment I think it is. The nine judges are never bound by precedence. Not even their own they have defended the right some right of children to work in factories throughout the night and then absolutely forbidden them to do just that they have proclaimed the right to keep blacks and whites apart on trains and then sixty seventy years later. Pretty lame the right to put whites and blacks together on trains in school rooms theaters everywhere. So you see the Constitution like the Old Testament can be cited to forgive one's enemies or Galligan eye for an eye but make no mistake this chamber is haunted by memorable faces and single sentences that have transformed the life of the American people. Chief Justice Marshall it is emphatically the province and duty of the judicial department and nobody else to say what the law is. Mr Justice Sutherland. The liberty of the individual to do as he pleases even an innocent matters is not absolute. Mr Justice Holland said eighty years ago against all eight of his colleagues the Constitution is colorblind. Mr Justice Holmes. A constitution is made for people are fundamentally differing views. Chief Justice Hughes. The Constitution is what the judges say it is. So it is and since the majority of the nine decides everything the Constitution is what five judges say it is now this sounds very alarming but these nine minute human and of various character and there's nothing rigid about the author already of the Constitution. It bends to the more old wins of the time but if the judges are behind the times and if ever there integrity as honorable men is seriously questioned then the court and the country are in trouble. But I've noticed that an ad and impressive thing happens can happen when a man is appointed to the court the president may think he is installed a ventriloquist doll. But suddenly the man is paid for life and can become himself a quite different character from the one the president ordered up and so remarkably often they court has kept the country on an even keel in the stormy as times believe me it will be a bad day for Americans if ever the mass of them come to lose faith in this court as they're fair and final protect us with. Them I'd have been no all powerful court and no workable constitution if the founding fathers had not listened to an American who was not present in Philadelphia he is the missing giant of the convention. Thomas Jefferson he was in Paris as minister to France and he heard with alarm the George Mason had failed to impress on the convention the vital need for a written bill of rights in France. Jefferson looked around him and he saw most of the old indignities the Constitution had failed to prohibit and he wrote continuously back to Philadelphia you must specify your liberties and put them down on paper. Within four years. Ten Amendments came into force as the Bill of Rights. One Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press all the right of the people peaceably to assemble. To a well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. Three No soldier shall in time of peace because it in any house without the consent of the owner. For the right of the people to be secure against unreasonable search and seizures shall not be violated. Five No person shall be tried twice for the same crime nor compelled to be a witness against himself nor be deprived of life liberty or property without due process of law. Eight excessive bail shall not be required nor Crowell and unusual punishment inflicted and so on through ten amendments all were abducted within four years as the original bill of rights since then there's been some fifteen others all incorporated in the body of the Constitution and serving as the only brief and bible of the Supreme Court. As Hamilton and guaranteed the central structure of the United States and medicine the large powers of the individual states so it was Jefferson who thought most steadily of the chief beneficiary of these labours the people. You might think of such a man who disliked cities idolized farmers as a simple rural crank he was not he was a very remarkable American eighteenth century type upperclass classless inventive genius. Scholarly eccentric country squire this is his house and he was the architect of it. He got up always with the sun but like a lot of us who travel between hotels he didn't like to look at his bed all day so he devised a series of police and the need closure in the ceiling into which he could pull the bed soon after I got up this way he created a walk through the connected that sitting wrong with this study this house is full of novelties of his invention which today we take for granted a revolving chair in which he could follow the light as he read. Find his own spectacles and medicine chest. And a four sided lectern which allowed a chamber music quartet to play from the same stand he was not so easy as Dick. Amateur musician in fact he was an amateur everything and amateur of astronomy of interior decoration he designed the curtains all here of architecture of gardening he little pep in. The album Up event by the way if anybody cares. Was Queen Victoria's favorite apple but. He was a lifeline now take our hero renames of notes about everything the Greek and Roman authors do contemporary French philosophers geology Hebrew manuscripts. Here are his notes on his native state of Virginia. Here he compiled a list of all the trees plants and flowers in the state of Virginia and an account with all their locations of all the known Indian tribes of North America. He also had a theory of currency which he carried against the bankers he carried it with the Congress and anticipated the British government by nearly two hundred years in pointing out the laborious ness of pounds shillings and pence he would simply the ordinary man has to divide by twelve and carry and then divide by twenty and Kerry whereas in a decimal system everything is divided by ten to the great ease of the community. I must say that if there's one notebook I'd give a great deal for it's the one he carried around Europe he padded around Paris. Jutting down all the detestable to a republic would not have no public statues. A prejudice which the American people have successfully overcome titles of nobility are very great vanity he wrote which tends to prolong the artificial aristocracy of birth and wealth as against the natural aristocracy of talent and virtue. He went to London and visit in the courts and I made a note. No way examined judges we must not have men sitting in judgment who looked like mice. Peeping out of outcome. You know there's something almost comical about Jefferson's earnestness and maybe a little print but to me something very pure and innocent to he believed that nothing but good could come from the total open public discussion of every issue and when he heard that the Constitutional Convention had adopted its rule of secrecy he said this is an abominable president because he really did believe and he said it over and over again in the essential goodness and wisdom of the common people. Alexander Hamilton would have ground here in. A few days before Hamilton died he wrote every day proved to me more and more that this American world is not for me. Well so far as deficit could see it was for him. Maybe Hamilton could see a little farther into the future than Jefferson. Who foresaw a continuing utopia of chivalrous and learned rulers walking hand in hand with good honest farmers in our favorite race. Perfect harmony I don't know but he used to retreat here as often as we possibly could even when he was president he called Washington that Indian swamp in the wilderness and when you think of him sitting here amid his dreams and here's book centers gadgets it's no wonder that citizens slums and front here violence never crossed his mind. But over the mountains in the interior there was another people. And if it was the ideas of such as Jeff is that invented the new nation it was a rude man of what Americans call the back country who changed and secured it. This was the country of Daniel boom and undefeatable wagon a blacksmith on to explore a surveyor who tried time and again to beat a trail into a new colony. Before he made it. He was wounded he had a brother killed a son killed himself was nearly drowned he was drunk. By blizzards beaten by Indians and he saw families massacred the it. At the end he was swindled out of the tracts of land that he cleared and laid title too. But the brutal experience of this hero did not to turn over one hundred thousand people pouring into the new territories of Kentucky and Tennessee. Within fifteen years and within thirty is the population of the United States. Doubled and the overflow both of young Americans and European arrivals went inland through the mountains into the valleys of the Mississippi and the Ohio rise you up my dear rescue rival presented to me I had a nightmare all right now. Some are a bit dense land where the lady in Manhattan so I guess they bought one wherever I came to break and you know Bob. The you might have come out of there go to the following year and that you've been so great. Through a bomb. They were on that and mostly hunters trappers pinching farmers living a tough classless life making with their own hands all that is as it is of life. Like the Puritans a hundred and eighty years before their single obsession was so vital and to survive they had to Bogen with or slaughter the Indians whose lands they did Coach Don and then they had to tame the landscape. The fire by a member line but Dr Walter and winning laced out got married and Gap. And the guy at where a caravan. Cumber laughed out commercial gap with it. Clips I'm all. Over the past but for the Bay Area around. Out. At Alconbury in combat I mean guy asked me and my why not my wife and. I weighed cumber lime guy I've got guys at Comair gap as who were out. There and got out. We are. Here in a high mountain valley in the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee the first white man to make a clearing and settle here was a man named John Oliver and eight hundred eighteen he built this campaign. It's only four hundred miles as the crow flies from here to the Atlantic Ocean but in those days the Crow had it much easier. Remember that I said at the Philadelphia convention. Nobody made a favorable mention of the word democracy all these back country people they would mention it. Because they were the people we can now see who initiated a very familiar conflict in American life between the Metropolitan man on the Outlander between the Midwest farmer and was speed between upstate and downstate and this conflict still dictate the balance of power and prejudice in the state legislatures now the people who came through here and literally had to shovel and fight their way through the mountains they were the first Anglo Saxons who had as we say gone West and pretty soon they would be heard from and when they were a new stage direction would be required for the next act of the American drama it would say loud noises heard offstage enter deem US. Democracy would plant a rude a strain in the character of the Americans and their government for the people who lived here had few links if any with the writers of the Constitution they would transform the Republic beyond the imagining of the learned and graceful man. Of the eighteenth century. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK you Christi. Which in the home. News. Of up you. To. It in the song and you. All prayed as you to go. Along to. You to come and gone my son if you. Do not the thing to do. You treat. The girl. And the crew. Let us. Know. So. Washington has been called among other things a city of Greek Wedding cakes. They celebrate the conviction of the founding fathers that what they were building was the first modern republic with the of ancient Greece. What they could not anticipate was the flood of democracy that would rough up the symmetry of the new institutions this is a kind of contrast that constantly arises between what the eighteenth century hoped to make out of American life and what life turned out to be for example. Nearly all the visual records we have of the wars of the eighteenth century show men fighting and dying in an almost dignified and stately way clearly the scenes were not photographed by network correspondents this morning to show to us tonight. Yet the eighteenth century was and not least the American War of Independence. Web bloody as a most if only because they were man to man. Hostile horse hand to hand affairs. But since this was the century of reason and elegance these wars were brought to an end in reasonable treatise concluded in elegant runs. But even with reasonable people it takes time for the bad blood to simmer and it took two years from the British surrender Yorktown to the peace of Paris which ended the war of independence it was signed the treaty was signed at this desk and it was commemorated and that sketch painting by Benjamin West. Now there you see the American delegation led by Benjamin Franklin in black you don't see the British delegation because they were so used to winning that they didn't know how to look like loses and they refused to show up at the oughta studio. However in those intervening two years they had one great naval victories in the West Indies and they still occupy New York so they came to this desk with somebody getting strength obviously they had to grab the total independence of the new nation called United States of America and they had to give up these huge lands from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico that they'd won only twenty years before from the French. That's to say all the way from the Mississippi to the Allegheny Mountains they did retain navigation rights on this is a city and a share of the newfound fisheries. Well so much for the part is of the first part but now came the master stage in every peace treaty where the allies of the when I demand their pound of flesh. The French were quite content to see Britain's stripped of her American empire and to leave a small nation on a huge continent which no doubt that some later date would require French protection. That left the Spanish and they wanted to reward far beyond their prowess. Fact they wanted to Brother way back then and were persuaded by the French to settle for Florida. But now there was great anxiety over a word that haunts the defeated in every civil war and the word is reprisal. What was going to happen to the loyalists to the one third of the colonists who'd fought on the British side or with the supported them. Well the treaty put in some humane promises about compensation for houses lands possessions but the Congress was an infant and he couldn't keep these promises and I'm sorry to say that in the result of the loyalists were treated with alarming variations throughout the states. Pennsylvania Quakers were so compassionate that it is gusted New Yorker wished instead they had followed the example of his state there was nothing he said like a vigorous manly execution. But in most places the Loyalists had a brutal time. In many towns the favorite torture was tarring and feathering and this cartoon suggests that the fate of a woman collaborator is much the same in all wars. The lawyer lists lost their houses and businesses they had no legal redress from assault and slander they even had to pay for robberies and the ruin caused by rioting mobs. And at last they were forced into exile in great numbers to Canada to the West Indies or back to England. The day the British evacuated Charleston one hundred ships sail down the bay jammed with loyalists and in New York the British commander was so fearful of mass reprisals that he refused to give up the port until the last refugee was aboard and one of them made the following note in his diary they will scarcely be a village in England without some American dust in it by the time we are all addressed. They welcome home given to starving exiles was seldom as elaborate as this symbolic perception by Britannia. But this forced Exodus was I suppose prudent if not inevitable. The war had ended in a blaze of packed it as and and the people were so peacock proud that sooner or later they might have menaced the lives of the population of renegades. So for a time they reveled in the popular fiction of a brave and indissoluble alliance of new states and they celebrated it in the naive symbols of the time the eagle the war horse and Columbia with her flag. Out who the. Even so level headed a man as John Adams wrote this day of July seventeenth seventy six will be the memorable. A park in the history of America. It ought to be solemn Nies with pomp and parade with shows games sports guns bells bonfires and Illuminations from one end of this continent to the other from this time forward for evermore. The and. However our week the eight. The conquering heroes had come home all right. Drunk on the pride of sovereignty but not as Americans rather as Virginians Marylanders New Yorkers. Pennsylvania. But on the morning after this. Indissoluble Union soon dissolved into separate states. Slapping terrace on each other calling their own money going their own ways. Shocking off the huge national war debt as somebody else's business we're here in Philadelphia because this is where fifty five men came to try and repair the chaos of what had become the Disunited States of America. Just about held together by some loose agreements called the Articles of Confederation a solid League of Nations which like some others kept boasting about an overriding author already which in fact it never possessed. So in time. Influential man in the new state came to recognize with much reluctance. That they were not a nation and they came here in seven hundred eighty seven Philadelphia. Frankly to see if they could make the government work. It was natural for them to come here. Philadelphia with the great the populace the polonium America it was the central city it was here in the statehouse now called independence. That the Declaration of Independence and been passed in seven hundred seventy six and it was here that George Washington had received the command of the Continental Army. This is the chamber in which they met and it looks very much as it did then there was no argument about who they're presiding officer was to be George Washington sat and case Melissa left here. The other delegates that are on these tables one table to one state. I said just now that they were reluctant to come together here. They were big men and their own country and I suppose they hated to lose the sweet smell of success that they didn't join in their own daily weeks. Anyway it took ten days to get a quorum and Rhode Island never did show up. Rhode Island is in the union though. But when seven states were represented. They close the doors and they began. But who are they. The Declaration of Independence had started its catalog of royal crimes with the grand phrase we the people. But by any definition of the people that we'd expect they were not here. You know looking back on it now it's it's awfully hard for us to realize that the men who created the United States we're not creating our society they would have shouted at some of our deepest beliefs. Democracy for instance for though the king of gone and the governors were appointed by men of property and the legislators were elected I think that most of the men who came here would have agreed with old John Winthrop that democracy. Amongst several nations is accounted the meanest and worst form of government. Also they had no intention of sanctioning political parties they agreed with their chairman George Washington that political parties provoke the mischief of associations and combinations. Now it's natural to ask how about the people's people the the demagogues the the bloodshot artists who had rabble rouse the country into revolution. Patrick Henry Tom Paine they weren't here. For it often happens that men who love the bonfire fire in the rebuilding something of a bore. Patrick Henry refused to come he said I smell a rat and Philadelphia. Tom Paine was a man so exhilarated by agitation that he adopted it as a profession the very month the Founding Fathers gathered in Philadelphia he sailed away to try and pull inclination to revolutionary shape he was arrested in London for treason he escaped to France to play first trumpet to the French Revolution but he found they had their own trumpeters and he missed the guillotine by a hair's breadth. It should be a lesson to all columnists and writers of indignant books. So who then where the men who were to be known ever afterwards as the Founding Fathers Jefferson call them an assembly of demi gods not quite but they were as a period lot possibly the most enlightened certain of the most civilized revolution or is the world has seen in the last two hundred years. These fifty five men where the elite business the professions of government in their own states the shippers manufactures of the north the planters and scholars of the south more than half of them were lawyers. Twenty nine of them were graduates of colleges of either Britain or America. Average age forty two which in the eighteenth century was just a little beyond the span of normal life. Well they they were here for just seventeen weeks and the first thing they did was to flout their instructions they decided that the Articles of Confederation were hopeless they abolished them and started from scratch and they sat down here to invent a nation. They spent the first two months looking through all the ancient and modern forms of government and found Frank and said only the seeds of their dissolution. So they began by deciding what they wouldn't have a parliamentary system for instance. Out they had a hundred fifty years to dition of separate governments for the states and they meant to keep them and since they'd overthrown what they've come to look at them as the Terrenate of money they wouldn't have a king and they wouldn't have a standing army. Kings could command standing armies and manipulate parliament. A professional army was anathema to them. Indeed the continental army was disbanded within six months of the end of the war and the Navy and the Marine Corps. Cease to exist. When by the way the suggestion came from an old army man who idolized his chief the George Washington should be made king Washington himself was the first to snuff it out as an idea I must tell you with abhorrent and reprehend with severity. Oh at the start they took a decision that they would certainly produced the most frightful hullabaloo among the newspapers and the networks not to mention the people. Should they publish their debates as they went along. It's a problem that has passed the diplomats have a sense whether as Woodrow Wilson believed such conferences should seek open covenants openly arrived at all as dot com a shock believed they should seek open covenants secretly arrived at well they agreed with diet come ashore and Washington said that if even if they didn't publish their debates and their resolutions. Dribbled out they would get into the newspapers and he said. Disturb the public repose with premature speculations. Imagine So what was recorded hear what went on behind these closed doors was unknown to anybody on the outside the sixty years. When the convention was all over and Benjamin Franklin was going through these doors the last time I know latest optimist said Well Dr what have we got a republic or a monarchy and he replied a republic madam if you can keep it. Well the Republic has been kept for two hundred years but not without considerable disturbance to the public the public. George Washington now should be living at this hour. The on. The list is not a rock rally with a ninety seven to political campaigns. One man's way of trying to get elected to the United States at the side of the day all the right amount of gun and I. Said wait a minute. If you're not. Always that this too is going on in the founders town of Philadelphia. And that is probably the fifteenth ice cream cone that he's had to take a look at it in one day and that you know. Money from. Wainwright the United States the complexion I don't know if we don't want to set the table I pay for play five but the third. But back in the Independence Hall in seventeen eighty seven the great debate turn on a crucial question the balance of power between the central government. In the States there was one brilliant advocate of a strong central government. Alexander Hamilton like most fervent nationalists like Napoleon like Hitler. Hamilton was born elsewhere he was a British subject born in the West Indies at the age of twelve he was running a mercantile business and sank and doing it expertly in two languages at sixteen he entered what is now Columbia University and he wrote some of the most persuasive of the revolutionary pamphlets. He fought bravely in the war and at the end of it was a military aid to George Washington he was the supreme spokesman of the Arabs to credit principle he wanted a lifetime president. A lifetime Senate recruited explosive live from men of property and all powerful central government that could absolutely veto the laws of the states. At the opposite pole was a Virginia George Mason who argued to the end for strong individual rights a weak central government and equal powers for the states. In between Hamilton and Mason sat on most under Matic figure thirty two years old a theologian of great learning more patience and a skeptical view of human nature. James Madison if men were virtuous you once reminded the convention there would be no need of governments at all. This was our man in the middle. James Madison his great learning these tomes remind me of a story about a very practical British prime minister who is asked how Harold Lasky another great scholar of politics how he made out when he was given his first political job. And Mr act lease and run thing about Harold never got the hang of it. Well the truly marvelous thing about medicine was the way he got the hang of it was the way his learning and his experience reinforced each other he came to Philadelphia with this vast pile of books and elected the delegates on the history of Confederacy is ancient and modern and from it he hammered home a warning that no Confederacy had ever succeeded which set up a conflict between the national and the provincial government so bluntly you could say he thought both Hamilton and Mason were wrong. His idea which really became the central principle of the American system was that the national government does not exist to color US the states of the their rival they both exist for the protection of the American citizen and happily the men a Philadelphia hearken to him so they boasted the pride of the little state by giving them equal representation in an upper house and giving every locality the widest representation in a lower house and this was the vital compromise they agreed to recognize and respect. The variety of life and tradition in the States and to give them and leave them to this day. Great independent powers. This is not any building in Washington it is the entrance to a state capital the headquarters of government by and for that state a lover and there are some such building in each of the fifty states each has its governorates executive branch and its own Congress with an Upper House in the lower house in fifty state capitals men are busy exercising all the powers which the Constitution did not give to the federal government. The states control their own highways education banking divorce taxation even their own civil and criminal codes. It was a daring thing to give these powers to the States but it greatly diffused the opportunity for self-government and we ought to say. For corruption. It sounds like a shattering defeat for Alexander Hamilton and so it was. When the constitutional convention was over he said no mans ideas are more remote from the plan on my own are known to be. Now I said that he was a Roman and he had some of the Roman vices arrogance centralism but he had a great Roman virtue magnanimity he never complained or a criminal did because he'd lost and to me. Alexander Hamilton not so very fashionable figure now represents the politician at his very best showing an absence of malice. A steady willingness to believe that your opponent is an honorable man as you are and maybe right. He swallowed his most passionate convictions and wrote more than forty brilliant essays urging the states to ratify the constitution which was a very close thing in some places in Virginia for instance they voted eighty nine for seventy nine against George Mason and Patrick Henry voted against but in the end it was done and I think thanks mainly to these three men to Hamilton Mason and Madison they together achieve the triumph of three principles which I believe have sustained this federal republic on a continent for so long they're under Matic principles but they're very precious. They are compromise compromise compromise.
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